Anyone who has been involved in the deployment of a waste-to-energy (WTE) project with public-sector involvement knows how challenging it can be. Siting a project, finding a reliable technology provider, permitting and approvals, funding and retaining the support of elected officials are not for the faint of heart. Many of the successful projects such as the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels or West Palm Beach Renewable Energy Facility 2 can take 10 years or more to complete.
It’s part of the reason why Alison Kerester of the Gasification and Syngas Technologies Council (formerly Gasification Technologies Council), told attendees at the 2015 Renewable Energy from Waste Conference in Orlando that many firms are no longer submitting proposals for public projects. It’s also why Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County Executive Director Mark Hammond joked with attendees of the event’s preconference workshop that if their municipality had less than 10 years left of landfill life, they had better start dusting off their resumes.
It sounds like an uphill battle for firms trying to break into this difficult environment. Fortunately, the WTE industry does have some things working in its favor. The first, quite simply, is waste is not going away. On a global scale, as the population grows and developing countries continue to increase their middle classes, waste generation also is growing. Solutions for reducing that waste and keeping it out of landfills, which can be scarce in some parts of the world, are necessary.
Industries that generate scrap materials or sludges from their manufacturing processes are another major driver of WTE. A growing number of businesses, from large automakers to packaging companies to retailers and breweries, are placing a greater emphasis on the life cycle of the materials they are using to produce goods. They want to reduce their environmental footprint and are taking a look at their entire process, from raw materials procurement to end-of-life, and how they can conduct all areas of business with the least environmental impact. This movement is often referred to as the circular economy. WTE is finding a place within the circular economy as a way to capture as much value (and energy) as possible from the supply chain, especially when reuse and recycling are not options.
“A growing number of businesses, from large automakers to packaging companies to retailers and breweries, are placing a greater emphasis on the life cycle of the materials they are using to produce goods.”
Beginning in March, Renewable Energy from Waste and its sister publications, Recycling Today, Recycling Today Global Edition and Construction & Demolition Recycling, all will take a close look in 2016 into the circular economy and its role in the various business segments our magazines cover. We will feature commentary by those leading the charge in promoting a circular economy in their global operations. These essays will appear in our print editions and on our websites, where you also will find related podcasts and videos.
We look forward to sharing these various perspectives from private industry to help guide your businesses and provide insights into the approaches of some of the companies at the forefront of this massive movement.